• horse;
  • spinal cord compression;
  • cervial stenotic myelopathy;
  • myelography;
  • dorsal myelographic column;
  • dural diameter


Reasons for performing study: Different criteria have been described based on height reduction of the total myelographic contrast column and components of it as tests for compression of the spinal cord due to cervical stenotic myelopathy (CSM). Fifty percent height reduction of the dorsal myelographic column (DMC), <2 mm empiric height of the DMC and a 40% reduction of the ratio of stenosis calculated based on the height reduction of the entire dural diameter (DD) have been described as decision criteria for considering the test result positive. The reasons for selecting these decision criteria or their accuracies have rarely been reported.

Objectives: To evaluate the accuracy of diagnostic criteria based on reduced height of the total myelographic column and components of it for diagnosing extradural spinal cord compression using different decision criteria, and make recommendations for consistent myelographic interpretation in horses suspected of having CSM.

Methods: Four measurements were obtained by 2 readers in a retrospective sample population of 38 horses in which both cervical myelography and histopathological examination of the cervical spinal cord were performed. The prevalence of CSM in the sample was 50%. At intervertebral sites, the minimum heights of the DD and DMC were measured. At intravertebral sites, the maximum heights of the entire DD and DMC were obtained. Percent height reductions of the DMC and DD were determined as the ratio of minimum intervertebral height to maximum intravertebral height within the next cranial vertebra. Histological examination was used as the gold standard for determining the actual site of spinal cord compression. Sensitivity and specificity for the diagnostic criteria were estimated at each site in neutral and flexed neck positions using several different decision criteria.

Conclusions: At C6-C7, in neutral or flexed neck position and using 20% reduction of DD, the test was highly sensitive and specific for CSM. At other sites, reduced height of the myelographic column generally was not accurate for diagnosing extradural spinal cord compression. Using 20% reduction of DD in neutral position at the mid-cervical sites, the test had only low sensitivity and high specificity. Flexion of the neck appeared to increase detection of spinal cord compression in the mid-cervical region, but also substantially increased the frequency of false-positive diagnoses.

Potential relevance: By using the reported sensitivity and specificity estimates, readers may decide on a decision criterion for diagnosis of extradural spinal cord compression due to CSM. However, in planning a surgical correction, it is difficult to define a decision criterion that combines acceptable sensitivity and specificity, especially at the mid-cervical sites.